Election 2020

Election 2020: The Week in Review

By San Yamin Aung 12 September 2020

YANGON—‘Election 2020: The Week in Review’ offers a summary of the most important developments related to the 2020 election during the past week—the stories readers should not miss if they want to understand the electoral landscape. Between Sept. 5 and Sept. 11, the official election campaign period began in the shadow of COVID-19, even as some parties called for the election to be postponed amid a resurgence in the disease.

A township under a stay-at-home order in Yangon. / Aung Kyaw Htet / The Irrawaddy

Election body bans campaigning in COVID-19 hotspots

Monday (Sept. 7)

Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC) announced that political parties are barred from campaigning ahead of the Nov. 8 general election in townships where the government has issued stay-at-home orders.

The UEC said political parties are not allowed to organize rallies or campaign in open places and buildings, or conduct door-to-door campaigning where a stay-at-home order has been imposed.

The Ministry of Health and Sports has issued stay-at-home orders in all 17 townships in Rakhine State and 28 townships in Yangon.

Election campaign gatherings are also restricted to a maximum of 50 people and participants are required to practice social distancing and other preventive measures, while door-to-door campaign teams are limited to 15.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi attends an event marking the start of the NLD’s election campaign in Naypyitaw on Tuesday. / Thiha Lwin / The Irrawaddy

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi cancels first campaign trip over COVID-19

Monday (Sept. 7)

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s State Counselor and chairperson of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), canceled her first campaign visit to her parliamentary constituency in Yangon’s Kawhmu Township scheduled for Tuesday, as the country’s health minister vetoed the trip after a house attendant and another man at her Yangon residence tested positive for COVID-19.

A man who watches over Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s residence in Yangon and another from Kawhmu Township who has regular access to the compound tested positive for COVID-19.

Following the announcement of the cancellation during a livestreamed videoconference to discuss COVID-19 control measures in Yangon, she said she felt guilty that a person at her residence had tested positive, and requested that Yangon residents continue to observe COVID-19 preventive measures to limit infections.

NLD supporters showed their solidarity with the party by displaying its banner at their homes and shops, and on their vehicles. / Aung Kyaw Htet / The Irrawaddy

Campaign season opens

Tuesday (Sept. 8)

Political parties kicked off their campaigns, with some hoisting their flags; erecting candidate hoardings; beginning door-to-door campaigning in some townships; and driving around in cars decorated with their logos.

With parties banned from going to places under stay-at-home orders in Yangon, the epicenter of COVID-19 in Myanmar, NLD supporters in the city showed their solidarity with the party by displaying its banner at their homes and shops, and on their vehicles, in response to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s call to do so on the first day of the election campaign.

Many people’s Facebook timelines were also filled with red as netizens who support the NLD changed their profile pictures to the party’s logo or flag.

Parties said they were finding it hard to get their messages out, not only in places where stay-at-home orders are in effect, but also in other townships due to travel and other restrictions related to COVID-19.

A screenshot of President U Win Myint’s Facebook page

President U Win Myint back on Facebook 

Thursday (Sept. 10)

Myanmar’s 68-year-old President U Win Myint, who is seeking re-election in his former constituency of Yangon Region’s Tamwe township, which is under a stay-at-home order, returned to Facebook after a long absence from the platform to get his campaign message out.

The President, who is also NLD vice chairman, had not used his previous personal Facebook account since he took office.

On his new Facebook page opened on Thursday, U Win Myint apologized for not being able to make close contact with constituents as before previous elections.

“I would like to ask your understanding on that,” he said, adding, “I urge you to vote for the NLD for our long-awaited democracy.”

NLD  chairwoman Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Mandalay Chief Minister Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, who is also the NLD’s vice chairman, also opened Facebook pages recently to spread their campaign messages ahead of the election.

Some parties call for election postponement

Thursday (Sep. 10)

Amid a spike in COVID-19 cases, some political parties called on the election commission to consider postponing the vote, citing concerns for citizens’ health and their difficulties in campaigning under the restrictions.

The People’s Party, formed by 88 Generation Students group leaders, has also suggested delaying the election until COVID-19 is under control. The party’s chairman U Ko Ko Gyi said he is reluctant to solicit votes when people are in a state of panic and dealing with many problems.

The party wrote to the election commission calling for meetings with parties to discuss a possible postponement. The UEC said last week that any delay would be announced in October, but for now there is no plan to postpone the vote.

U Than Htay

In their own words:

“Vote for democracy. Vote for the unfinished journey to democracy.” — President U Win Myint, speaking at an event marking the start of the NLD’s election campaign in Naypyitaw on Tuesday.

“We are running in the election with the aim of winning enough seats to form the government.” — USDP chairman U Than Htay, talking to the media on Wednesday.

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